Tag Archives: clams

Episode 314: Animals Discovered in 2022

Let’s learn about some of the animals discovered in 2022! There are lots, so let’s go!

Further Reading:

In Japanese waters, a newly described anemone lives on the back of a hermit crab

Rare ‘fossil’ clam discovered alive

Marine Biologists Discover New Giant Isopod

Mysterious ‘blue goo’ at the bottom of the sea stumps scientists

New Species of Mossy Frog Discovered in Vietnam

A Wildlife YouTuber Discovered This New Species of Tarantula in Thailand

Meet Nepenthes pudica, Carnivorous Plant that Produces Underground Traps

Scientists discover shark graveyard at the bottom of the ocean

Further Watching:

JoCho Sippawat’s YouTube channel

A newly discovered sea anemone (photo by Akihiro Yoshikawa):

A mysterious blue blob seen by a deep-sea rover:

A newly discovered frog:

A newly discovered tarantula (photo by JoCho Sippawat):

Show transcript:

Welcome to Strange Animals Podcast. I’m your host, Kate Shaw.

It’s the 2022 discoveries episode, where we learn about some of the animals discovered in 2022! Most of the time these animals were actually discovered by scientists before 2022, but the description was published in that year so that’s when we first learned about them. And, of course, a lot of these animals were already known to the local people but had never been studied by scientists before. There are lots of animals in the world but not that many scientists.

The great thing is, so many animals get discovered in any given year that I have to pick and choose the ones I think listeners will find most interesting, which in a stunning coincidence turns out to be the ones that I personally find most interesting. Funny how that works out.

We’ll start in the ocean, which is full of weird animals that no human has ever seen before. It’s about a hermit crab who carries a friend around. The hermit crab was already known to science, but until a team of scientists observed it in its natural habitat, the deep sea off the Pacific coast of Japan, no one realized it had an anemone friend.

The sea anemone is related to jellyfish and is a common animal throughout the world’s oceans. Some species float around, some anchor themselves to a hard surface. Many species have developed a symbiotic relationship with other animals, such as the clownfish, which is sometimes called the anemonefish because it relies on the anemone to survive. Anemones sting the way jellyfish do, but it doesn’t sting the clownfish. Researchers aren’t sure why not, but it may have something to do with the clownfish’s mucus coating. Specifically, the mucus may have a particular taste that the anemone recognizes as belonging to a friend. If the anemone does accidentally sting the clownfish, it’s still okay because the fish is generally immune to the anemone’s toxins.

The clownfish lives among the anemone’s tentacles, which protects it from predators, and in return its movements bring more oxygen to the anemone by circulating water through its tentacles, its droppings provide minerals to the anemone, and because the clownfish is small and brightly colored, it might even attract predators that the anemone can catch and eat.

Anemones also develop mutualistic relationships with other organisms, including a single-celled algae that lives in its body and photosynthesizes light into energy. The algae has a safe place to live while the anemone receives some of the energy from the algae’s photosynthesis. But some species of anemone have a relationship with crabs, including this newly discovered anemone.

The anemone anchors itself to the shell that the hermit crab lives in. The crab gains protection from predators, who would have to go through the stinging tentacles and the shell to get to the crab, while the anemone gets carried to new places where it can find more food. It also gathers up pieces of food that the crab scatters while eating, because crabs are messy eaters.

The problem is that hermit crabs have to move into bigger shells as they grow. Anemones can move, but incredibly slowly. Like, snails look like racecar drivers compared to anemones. The anemone moves so slowly that the human eye can’t detect the movement.

What the team of scientists witnessed was a hermit crab spending several days carefully pushing and pinching the anemone to make it move onto its new shell. If it wasn’t important, the crab wouldn’t bother. The sea anemone hasn’t yet been officially described since it’s still being studied, but it appears to be closely related to four other species of anemone that also attach themselves to the shells of other hermit crab species.

In other marine invertebrate news, a researcher named Jeff Goddard was turning rocks over at low tide at Naples Point, California a few years ago. He was looking for sea slugs, but he noticed some tiny clams. They were only about 10 mm long, but they extended a white-striped foot longer than their shells. Goddard had never seen anything quite like these clams even though he was familiar with the beach and everything that lived there, so he took pictures and sent them to a clam expert. The expert hadn’t seen these clams before either and came to look for the clams in person. But they couldn’t find the clams again. It took ten trips to the beach and an entire year before they found another of the clams.

They thought the clam might be a new species, but part of describing a new species is examining the literature to make sure the organism wasn’t already described a long time ago. Eventually the clam research team did find a paper with illustrations of a clam that matched, published in 1937, but that paper was about a fossilized clam.

They examined the 1937 fossil shell and compared it to their modern clam shell. It was a match! But why hadn’t someone else noticed these clams before? Even Goddard hadn’t seen them, and he’s a researcher that spends a lot of time along the coast looking specifically for things like little rare clams. Goddard thinks the clam has only recently started extending its range northward, especially during some marine heatwaves in 2014 through 2016. He suspects the clam’s typical range is farther south in Baja California, so hopefully a future expedition to that part of the Pacific can find lots more of the clams and we can learn more about it.

We talked about deep-sea isopods just a few weeks ago, in episode 311. They’re crustaceans related to crabs and lobsters, but also related to roly-polies that live on land. The deep-sea species often show deep-sea gigantism and are referred to as giant isopods, and that’s what this newly discovered species is. It was first found in 2017 in the Gulf of Mexico and is more slender than other giant isopods. The largest individual measured so far is just over 10 inches long, or 26 cm, which is almost exactly half the length of the longest giant isopod ever measured. It’s still pretty big, especially if you compare it to its roly-poly cousins, also called pillbugs, sow bugs, or woodlice, who typically grow around 15 mm at most.

Before we get out of the water, let’s talk about one more marine animal. This one’s a mystery that I covered in the October 2022 Patreon episode. It was suggested by my brother Richard, so thank you again, Richard!

On August 30, 2022, a research team was off the coast of Puerto Rico, collecting data about the sea floor. Since the Caribbean is an area of the ocean with high biodiversity but also high rates of fishing and trawling, the more we can learn about the animals and plants that live on the sea floor, the more we can do to help protect them.

When a remotely operated vehicle dives, it sends video to a team of scientists who can watch in real time and control where the rover goes. On this particular day, the rover descended to a little over 1,300 feet deep, or around 407 meters, when the sea floor came in view. Since this area is the site of an underwater ridge, the sea floor varies by a lot, and the rover swam along filming things and taking samples of the water, sometimes as deep as about 2,000 feet, or 611 meters.

The rover saw lots of interesting animals, including fish and corals of various types, even a fossilized coral reef. Then it filmed something the scientists had never seen before. It was a little blue blob sitting on the sea floor.

The blue blob wasn’t moving and wasn’t very big. It was shaped roughly like a ball but with little points or pimples all over it and a wider base like a skirt where it met the ground, and it was definitely pale blue in color.

Then the rover saw more of the little blue blobs, quite a few of them in various places. The scientists think it may be a species of soft coral or a type of sponge, possibly even a tunicate, which is also called a sea squirt. All these animals are invertebrates that don’t move, which matches what little we know about the blue blob.

The rover wasn’t able to take a sample from one of the blue blobs, so for now we don’t have anything to study except the video. But we know where the little blue blobs are, so researchers hope to visit them again soon and learn more about them.

It wouldn’t be a newly discovered species list without at least one new frog. Quite a few frogs were discovered in 2022, including a tree frog from Vietnam called Khoi’s mossy frog. It lives in higher elevations and is pretty big for a tree frog, with a big female growing over 2 inches long, or almost 6 cm, from snout to vent. Males are smaller. It’s mostly brown and green with little points and bumps all over that help it blend into the moss-covered branches where it lives. That’s just about all we know about it so far.

Our next discovery is an invertebrate, a spider that lives in bamboo. Specifically it lives in a particular species of Asian bamboo in Thailand, and when I say it lives in the bamboo, I mean it really does live inside the bamboo stalks. Also, when I say it’s a spider, specifically it’s a small tarantula.

It was first discovered by a YouTuber named JoCho Sippawat, who travels around his home in Thailand and films the animals he sees. I watched a couple of his videos and they’re really well done and fun, and he’s adorable even when he’s eating gross things he finds, so I recommend his videos even if you don’t speak the language he speaks. I’m not sure if it’s Mandarin or another language, and I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing his name right either, so apologies to everyone from Thailand for my ignorance.

Anyway, Sippawat found a tarantula where no tarantula should be, inside a bamboo stalk, and sent pictures to an arachnologist. That led to a team of scientists coming to look for more of the spiders, and to their excitement, they found them and determined right away that they’re new to science. It was pretty easy to determine in this case because even though there are more than 1,000 species of tarantula in many parts of the world, none of them live in bamboo stalks. The new spider was placed in a genus all to itself since it’s so different from all other known tarantulas.

It’s mostly black and dark brown with narrow white stripes on its legs, and its body is only about an inch and a half long, or 3 1/2 cm. It can’t make holes into the bamboo plants itself, so it has to find a hole made by another animal or a natural crack in the bamboo. It lines its bamboo stalk with silk to make a little home, and while there’s a lot we don’t know yet about how it lives, it probably comes out of its home to hunt insects and other small animals since tarantulas don’t build webs.

Finally, let’s wrap around to the sea anemone again, at least sort of. If you remember episode 129, we talked about the Venus flytrap sea anemone, which is an animal that looks kind of like a carnivorous plant called the Venus flytrap. We then also talked about a lot of other carnivorous plants, including the pitcher plant. Well, in 2022 a new species of pitcher plant was discovered that has underground traps.

The pitcher plant has a type of modified leaf that forms a slippery-sided pitcher filled with a nectar-like liquid. When an insect crawls down to drink the liquid, it falls in and can’t get out. It drowns and is dissolved and digested by the plant. Almost all known carnivorous plants are pretty small, but the largest are pitcher plants. The biggest pitcher plant known is from a couple of mountains in Malaysian Borneo, and its pitchers can hold over 2 ½ liters of digestive fluid. The plant itself is a messy sort of vine that can grow nearly 20 feet long, or 6 meters. Mostly pitcher plants just attract insects, especially ants, but these giant ones can also trap frogs, lizards, rats and other small mammals, and even birds.

The newly discovered pitcher plant grows in the mountainous rainforests of Indonesian Borneo and is relatively small. Unlike every other pitcher plant known, its pitchers develop underground and can grow a little over 4 inches long, or 11 cm. Sometimes they grow just under the surface, with leaf litter or moss as their only covering, but sometimes they grow deeper underground. Either way, they’re very different from other pitcher plants in other ways too. For one thing, scientists found a lot of organisms actually living in the pitchers and not getting eaten by the plant, including a new species of worm. Scientists aren’t sure why some animals are safe in the plant but some animals get eaten.

The new pitcher plant is found in parts of Indonesian Borneo that’s being turned into palm oil plantations at a devastating rate, leading to the extinction or threatened extinction of thousands of animal and plant species. The local people are also treated very badly. Every new discovery brings more attention to the plight of the area and makes it even more urgent that its ecosystems are protected from further development. The fastest way to do this would be for companies to stop using so much palm oil. Seriously, it’s in everything, just look at the ingredients list for just about anything. I try to avoid it when I’m grocery shopping but it’s just about impossible. I didn’t mean to rant, but the whole palm oil thing really infuriates me.

You know what? Let’s have one more discovery so we don’t end on a sour note.

A biodiversity survey of two of Australia’s marine parks made some really interesting discoveries in 2022. This included a new species of hornshark that hasn’t even been described yet. It’s probably related to the Port Jackson shark, which grows to around five and a half feet long, or 1.65 meters, and is a slow-moving shark that lives in shallow water off the coast of most of Australia. Instead of a big scary mouth full of sharp teeth, the Port Jackson shark has a small mouth and flattened teeth that allow it to crush mollusks and crabs. The newly discovered shark lives in much deeper water than other hornsharks, though, around 500 feet deep, or 150 meters.

Another thing they found during the survey wasn’t a new species of anything, but it’s really cool so I’ll share it anyway. It was a so-called shark graveyard over three miles below the ocean’s surface, or 5400 meters. The scientists were trawling the bottom and when they brought the net up to see what they’d found, it was full of shark teeth–over 750 shark teeth! They were fossilized but some were from modern species while some were from various extinct species of shark, including a close relative of Megalodon that grew around 39 feet long, or 12 meters. No one has any idea why so many shark teeth are gathered in that particular area of the sea floor.

You can find Strange Animals Podcast at strangeanimalspodcast.blubrry.net. That’s blueberry without any E’s. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, email us at strangeanimalspodcast@gmail.com. If you like the podcast and want to help us out, leave us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser, or just tell a friend. We also have a Patreon at patreon.com/strangeanimalspodcast if you’d like to support us for as little as one dollar a month and get monthly bonus episodes.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 019: The Dodo and the Clam

Thanks to Varmints! podcast for suggesting the dodo for this week’s topic.

And thanks to Two Clams Gaming podcast for suggesting clams as this week’s topic.

It’s two suggestions in one fun episode! Learn all about that most famous of extinct birds and all about a thing that tastes great deep-fried. (Well, okay, everything tastes great deep-fried. But you know what I mean.)

The dodo:

A giant clam and its algae pals:

Stop, thief! Put that clam down!

The disco clam looks as awesome as its name implies. It looks like a Muppet clam:

Calyptogena magnifica hanging out around a hydrothermal vent:

Show transcript:

Welcome to Strange Animals Podcast. I’m your host, Kate Shaw.

We’re getting backed up on suggestions, so I’m going to combine two in one episode today even though they don’t really have anything to do with each other. The first suggestion is from the podcast Varmints, a super fun podcast about animals. They want to know about the dodo. After that, we’ll go on to learn about clams. Yes, clams! Totally not anything to do with dodos, but the hosts at Two Clams Gaming suggested it. That’s another fun podcast, this one about video games—which you may have guessed. I’ll have links to both podcasts in the show notes for you to check out.

The dodo isn’t just extinct, it’s famously extinct. Dead as a dodo. That makes it difficult to research the dodo, too—type “dodo” into the search bar at Science Daily, for instance, and you get a ton of hits that have nothing to do with the actual dodo bird, like the article that says “Researchers believe they now know why the supersonic trans-Atlantic Concorde aircraft went the way of the dodo.” I don’t care. I’m here for the birds. Lots of animals and birds have gone extinct over the years, unfortunately. Why is the dodo special?

The first known sighting of a dodo was in 1598 by Dutch sailors who stopped by the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The last known sighting of a dodo was in 1662, just 64 years after those Dutch sailors noticed a weird-looking bird walking around. The dodo went extinct so quickly, and was so little known, that for a couple of centuries afterwards many people assumed it was just a sailor’s story. A big stupid bird that couldn’t fly that would walk right up to a sailor and let itself be killed? No way was that real.

But there were remains of dodos, and in the 19th century scientists gathered up what they could find and studied them. More remains were found on Mauritius. Pretty soon researchers had a pretty good idea of what had happened. The dodo had no predators on Mauritius so was able to live in a birdie garden of Eden, eating fruit and nuts, wandering around admiring the scenery, making new dodos. It grew big and happy, lost the ability to fly, and nested on the ground since almost nothing was around that might eat its eggs. Then humans showed up, happy to eat not just the eggs but the meat of any dodos they could find, although reports were that while the meat tasted pretty good, it was really tough. What the sailors didn’t eat, the animals they brought with them did, like pigs and dogs. It was a stark and clear picture of human-caused extinction, shocking to the Victorian naturalists who studied it. The dodo became a cautionary tale and early rallying cry for conservation.

We all have a mental image of what the dodo looks like just because it’s appeared in so many cartoons and children’s stories, from Alice in Wonderland to that Madagascar movie. But what did the dodo actually look like?

Well, it looked just like the cartoon versions of itself. This really was a silly-looking bird. It was big, over three feet tall, with brown or gray feathers, a floofy tuft of gray feathers as a tail, big yellow feet like a chicken’s, and a weird head. The feathers stopped around the forehead if birds had actual foreheads, making it look sort of like it was wearing a hood. Its face was bare and the bill was large, bulbous at the end with a hook, and was black, yellow, and green. The dodo looks, in fact, a lot like what you might expect pigeons to evolve into if pigeons lived on an island with no predators, and that’s exactly what happened. The dodo is closely related to pigeons and doves. Its closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon, a large, gorgeous bird with iridescent feathers. Like other pigeons, the dodo’s feathers probably had at least some iridescence too.

The dodo wasn’t clumsy and it wasn’t necessarily fat. A lot of the drawings and paintings we have of dodos were made from badly taxidermied birds or from overfed captive birds. At least eleven live dodos were brought to Europe and Asia, some bound for menageries, some intended as pets. The last known captive dodo was sent to Japan in 1647. In the wild, the dodo was a sleek bird that could run quite fast. It may have eaten crabs and other small animals as well as roots, nuts, seeds, and fruit. The dodo was also probably pretty smart. People only thought it was dumb because it didn’t run away from sailors—but it had never had to worry about anything more dangerous than an occasional egg-stealing crab before.

The dodo wasn’t the only creature on Mauritius to die out after ships started visiting the island, either. Other birds went extinct too, like the red rail, the broad-billed parrot, the Mauritius owl, and many others. So did animals like the Mauritian giant skink, two species of giant tortoise, and the small Mauritian flying fox. Even some plants, like the palm orchid, are long gone. Worse, there were undoubtedly dozens of species that went extinct without any human ever seeing them. We’ll never know the extent of the loss.

The stuffed dodos some museums display aren’t real. All we have of real dodos are bones and one dried head. Back in the 17th century, taxidermy was pretty primitive. Skins often weren’t treated with preservatives at all, and the preservatives that were in use didn’t last very long. There aren’t any taxidermied animals from before around 1750. Bugs ate them up.

The dodo is frequently mentioned when people bring up de-extinction. That’s the term used for cloning an extinct animal or genetically modifying a living animal to closely resemble an extinct ancestor. The dodo would be a good candidate for de-extinction since its habitat still exists. The problem is that we don’t have much genetic material to draw from. But DNA sequencing gets more sophisticated every year, so fingers crossed that a hundred years from now, there might be dodos on Mauritius again.

We know a decent amount about the dodo, but one of its close relatives, the spotted green pigeon, is an utter mystery. It’s extinct too, but we only have one specimen—there used to be two, but no one knows where the second one went. For a long time researchers weren’t even sure the spotted green pigeon was a distinct species or just a Nicobar pigeon with weird-colored feathers, but in 2014, DNA testing on two of the remaining specimen’s feathers showed it was indeed a separate species. Researchers think the spotted green pigeon, the dodo, and another extinct bird, the Rodrigues solitaire, all descended from an unknown pigeon ancestor that liked to island hop. Sometimes some of those pigeons would decide they liked a particular island and would stay, ultimately evolving into birds more suited to the habitat.

Because there were no scientific studies of Mauritius and its two closest islands until the 19th century, there’s been a lot of confusion about what birds lived where before they went extinct. For a long time researchers thought there was a variety of dodo on the island of Reunion with light-colored or white plumage. The white dodo was sometimes called the solitary dodo, causing confusion with the related flightless bird, Rodriguez solitaire. The island of Rodriguez is about 300 miles east of Mauritius. In 1987 fossils of a type of ibis were found on Reunion, and in 1995 they were connected with accounts of the Reunion solitaire, a flightless white bird with black markings that went extinct around the same time as the dodo. Researchers now believe reports of the white dodo from Reunion were actually describing the Reunion solitaire, now called the Reunion ibis. No dodo remains have ever been found anywhere except on Mauritius.

If all that sounds confusing, consider that when dodos were still alive, people referred to them as everything from ostriches to penguins. And no one has any idea where the name dodo actually came from.

As far as we know, the dodo only laid one egg at a time. It probably fed its baby with crop-milk like other pigeons and doves. That’s a substance that’s formed from the protein-rich lining of both parent bird’s crops, which detaches from the crop, is regurgitated by the parent and fed to the babies. It’s not anything like mammal milk but it’s pretty neat. The only other birds known to produce something similar are flamingos and some species of penguin, although in those birds the secretion comes from the lining of the esophagus. In pigeons and doves, the parents feed the babies exclusively on crop milk for the first week of life, then start mixing in regular food that’s been softened in the parent’s crop. I suppose I should explain that the crop is a sort of extra stomach where food is stored before being digested. It allows a bird to gorge itself if it comes across a lot of food. Not all birds have a crop.

One last interesting thing about the dodo. In 1973, botanists studying Mauritius couldn’t figure out why the tambalacoque, also called the dodo tree, was dying out. Supposedly only 13 trees remained, all around 300 years old, although that number seems to be mistakenly low. While the dodo trees produced seeds, very few of them germinated. Biologist Stanley Temple suggested that the tough-shelled seeds needed to pass through the digestive tract of the dodo to germinate properly. The dodo had a powerful gizzard that it filled with small stones it swallowed, which helped grind up tough plant materials. Temple hypothesized that by passing through the gizzard, the dodo tree seeds were abraded enough to germinate. He fed some of the seeds to turkeys, which have similar gizzards, and the recovered seeds promptly germinated. Botanists now use gem polishers—and sometimes turkeys—to abrade the seeds.

[bird sound]

Until I started my research for this episode, the only thing I knew about clams was that they’re really good fried. Oh, and that they have two shells that are super common and boring when you’re beachcombing. Specifically, they’re bivalve mollusks, but they’re not the only bivalve mollusks. Scallops, oysters, and mussels are too, and some close relations include slugs, snails, and squids.

Clams live in oceans and fresh water throughout the world. They start life as microscopic larvae that drift through the ocean eating plankton for a few weeks before attaching themselves to a piece of sand, gravel, shell, or whatever. At that point they burrow into the mud or sand until they develop their own shells. The adults live most of their lives partially buried in the sand in shallow water. Clams are filter feeders, sucking in water through a tube called a siphon and straining it with tiny hair-like structures called cilia.

The smallest clams are just .1 millimeter long. The biggest clam is the giant clam that lives in the Pacific and Indian oceans. These are the ones that used to be featured in short stories about divers in peril, their arm trapped by a giant clam and their air supply running out. What to do?? Or maybe I just read some weird stuff as a kid.

The giant clam can grow over four feet across and can live for more than a hundred years. It’s the only clam that can’t close its shell completely, especially as it gets bigger. Its mantle, the inside fleshy part of its body, protrudes past the edges of the shell like big stripey clam lips. But the giant clam spends most of the day with its shell open so that sunlight reaches the algae that live inside its mantle. The algae help feed the clam.

Giant clams are edible and have the reputation as being an aphrodisiac. As a result, they’re becoming more and more endangered, especially since the biggest shells are also worth money on the black market. Who knew there was a black market for clam shells? Seriously, people will spend money on anything. The next person contemplating dropping cash for an illegally harvested giant clam, do me and the clams a favor and buy me a nice set of cymbals for my drum kit instead, okay? Fortunately, giant clams can be raised in captivity and released into the wild.

And no, divers don’t get caught and drowned by giant clams. That’s a myth.

While most pearls are made by oysters, lots of mollusks can make them, including clams. The giant clam naturally produced the largest pearl ever found. It weighs 75 pounds. The Filipino fisherman who found it kept it under his bed for ten years as a good luck charm. It’s a foot in width and over two feet in length. It’s supposed to be worth over a million dollars, but don’t think about turning to a life of crime. A few months ago, in March of 2017, ten men were arrested for illegal possession of giant clam pearls and the giant clams themselves. Book em, Danno.

Different species of mollusk produce pearls of different color. The Ko-hog clam, which is frequently made into chowders, occasionally produces a purple or lavender pearl. They’re not always very pretty—they may not have much of a lustre compared to oyster pearls, or are lumpy in shape. But when a pretty one does turn up, they can be worth a lot. In 2009, a man eating seafood stew at his birthday meal discovered a pearl in his bowl the size of a big pea, which he later sold for $16,500. I could buy, like, so many cymbals for that kind of money.

There are some weird species of clams out there. The disco clam lives in underwater caves in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They flash brightly to scare off predators. Until a few years ago researchers assumed the lights were a type of bioluminescence, but it turns out that the flashes are caused by double-layered tissues. One of the layers is light absorbent and the other is highly reflective. The clam rolls and unrolls the tissues to flash the reflected light. The disco clam also appears to secrete noxious mucus to repel predators.

While most clams live in the shallows, there are some species that are found much deeper. In parts of the deep sea with a lot of volcanic activity, hydrothermal vents attract all kinds of marine life, including specialized clams. Calyptogena magnifica and its close relatives, which are big white clams that live around thermal vents, has no digestive organs. Instead, hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria live in its gills. The clam absorbs nutrients produced by the bacteria. Hydrothermal vents don’t last forever—they go cold as magma under the sea floor moves, and new vents will open up elsewhere. Researchers have recently discovered that some animals that live near hydrothermal vents, including clams, can also survive on sunken whale carcasses by chemically leaching energy from the oily whale bones with the help of bacteria.

One of the most popular edible types of clam is the Pacific gooeyduck. It has a relatively small shell, generally no bigger than about 8 inches long, but its siphon can be more than three feet long, with occasional record-setting individuals caught with siphons over six feet long. It’s another long-lived clam—it can live for hundreds of years. The siphon is considered a delicacy the world over, but frankly, if it’s not cut into strips and deep-fried, I don’t want to bother with eating clams. Not even if I might find a pearl.

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